Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Pandora's Box of NSA Spying Program Now Moves to Europe

(Pandora by Dante Rosetti)
Who had heard a month ago of Edward Snowden? Who knew a month ago, what  the consequences would be of publishing articles in a newspaper with Snowden's disclosures about NSA's Prism spying program? Well, it's a month later since Snowden opened Pandora's box and here are a number of quotes by European top officials in today's New York Times article Outrage in Europe Grows Over Spying Disclosures :"we cannot accept this kind of behavior between partners and allies" (French President Hollande, who also suggested to delay any new trade talks with the U.S.); "the spying has reached dimensions that I did not think were possible for a democratic country.... the U.S. has lost all balance - George Orwell is nothing by comparison" (Elmar Brok, the German chairman of the European Parliament's foreign affairs committee); "I'm deeply worried and shocked."  (Martin Schultz, the German President of the European Parliament.)

I'm adding a quote by the Dutch minister of Interior Affairs, Ronald Plasterk, who while stating that this matter is for the European Union rather than the Dutch, to take up with the U.S. , also said: "these kind of actions by the U.S. would not be acceptable for the Dutch intelligence agencies as this is contrary to Dutch law."

What has caused all this European outrage? Over the  weekend, the German magazine Der Spiegel reported in How the NSA targets Germany and Europe on further revelations by Snowden , specifically that the U.S. has been spying on Germany, and on European Union diplomats and officials. Because Der Spiegel article is so all-encompassing, I will quote extensively from this article:

" The documents prove that Germany played a central role in the NSA's global surveillance network -- and how the Germans have also become targets of US attacks. Each month, the US intelligence service saves data from around half a billion communications connections from Germany.......

No one is safe from this mass spying -- at least almost no one. Only one handpicked group of nations is excluded -- countries that the NSA has defined as close friends, or "2nd party," as one internal document indicates. They include the UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. A document classified as "top secret" states that, 'The NSA does NOT target its 2nd party partners, nor request that 2nd parties do anything that is inherently illegal for NSA to do.' "

That's interesting, is the determining factor of being a "close friend" of the U.S. the fact you speak English (what then about all those English speakers in Hong Kong, Singapore, India, Eastern-Africa, the Caribbean and South Africa?) or is this a group of "common wealth" countries and a throw back to an era before the Revolutionary War, when Great Britain still ruled the U.S.? Anyway, those countries and many other non-English speaking people are either considered 3rd party partners or adversaries, as Der Spiegel continues:

" For all other countries, including the group of around 30 nations that are considered to be 3rd party partners, however, this protection does not apply. "We can, and often do, target the signals of most 3rd party foreign partners," the NSA boasts in an internal presentation.

According to the listing, Germany is among the countries that are the focus of surveillance. Thus, the documents confirm what had already been suspected for some time in government circles in Berlin -- that the US intelligence service, with approval from the White House, is spying on the Germans -- possibly right up to the level of the chancellor. So it comes as little surprise that the US has used every trick in the book to spy on the Washington offices of the European Union, as one document viewed by Der Spiegel indicates.

But the new aspect of the revelations isn't that countries are trying to spy on each other, eavesdropping on ministers and conducting economic espionage. What is most important about the documents is that they reveal the possibility of the absolute surveillance of a country's people and foreign citizens without any kind of effective controls or supervision.........

... But the EU's diplomatic protection apparently doesn't apply in the case (of the EU's diplomatic delegation to U.S. in Washington D.C.) . As parts of one NSA document seen by Der Spiegel indicate, the NSA not only bugged the building, but also infiltrated its internal computer network. The same goes for the EU mission at the United Nations in New York. The Europeans are a "location target," a document from Sept. 2010 states. Requests to discuss these matters with both the NSA and the White House went unanswered...........

....... In the coming weeks, details relating to the collaboration between Germany's BND (its' secret service) and the NSA will be the focus of a parliamentary investigative committee in Berlin responsible for monitoring the intelligence services. The German government has sent letters to the US requesting additional information. The questions that need to be addressed are serious. Can a sovereign state tolerate a situation in which half a billion pieces of data are stolen on its territory each month from a foreign country? And can this be done especially when this country has identified the sovereign state as a "3rd party foreign partner" and, as such, one that can be spied on at any time, as has now become clear?""

The article then ends stating: "There is, however, one thing that the NSA managed to predict with perfect accuracy: where the greatest danger to its secrecy lies. In internal documents, the agency identifies terrorists and hackers as being particularly threatening. Even more dangerous, however, the documents say, is if an insider decides to blow the whistle....................An insider like Edward Joseph Snowden."

See for more background on the NSA leaks, the article, Boundless Informant:the NSA's secret tool to track global surveillance data in the British newspaper The Guardian and also the blog of Glenn Greenwald, the lead journalist at The Guardian who reported first on the Snowden leaks.

Finally, have a look at two American journalists' musings about the Snowden leaks:  first, Chris Hayes at MSNBC, who shows the hypocrisy surrounding the debate on the Snowden leaks.

Then CNN and Time columnist, Fareed Zakaria, who talks about the potential of abuse with "Big Data":

Over the last month, since Snowden opened Pandora's box, a tentative debate in the U.S. has started on its intelligence gathering of big data, overseas adversaries of the U.S. received a major propaganda gift in their relationship with the U.S., and in Europe and elsewhere longstanding friendships with the U.S. are under pressure. As Pandora's myth goes, no one can foretell how far the consequences will go. For now, let's just wonder what could be next, and revisit this a month from now.

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